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Showing posts from September, 2014

The Loney

Folk horror is an interesting term. For cinephiles, it covers the Seventies British horror films The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, and  Blood on Satan's Claw . As a telephile (if that's a word) it also embraces rather a lot of Nigel Kneale's output - especially the episode 'Baby' from the classic series Beasts . Those dramas are all products of the Seventies, as was the Play for Today  Robin Redbreast and the cult classic Penda's Fen . Even children's television got in on the act - check out  Children of the Stones and the Doctor Who adventure 'The Daemons' . There was something about that decade, when the late-Sixties counter-culture collided with old-school British cynicism and what had seemed a fairly stable, if very imperfect world started to seem a bit out-of-kilter. But it should be noted that folk horror, in literary fiction, has been around a while. M.R. James, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood all had different takes on local lege

The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows, Volume 2

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I'm not sure what the etiquette is when you've actually got a story in a book, but there it is. My story 'Lineage' can be found alongside those of several authors I've been proud to publish in ST over the years. Indeed, most of those involved seem to be ST 'alumni', which feels good. The picture comes courtesy of Helen Grant's FB page. Find out more about the book from Sarob Press here . I'll have more to say about the other contributors' stories in due course. Cover art by Paul Lowe

Like a rat up a drainpipe...

Similes. Editors love them, and you can never use enough weird ones. (I am kidding, just in case you missed the tone, there.) But the internet is awash with examples of bad similes produced by modern students, as if there's something new about dodgy analogies. A bit of 'research' (i.e. Googling stuff) should convince anyone that there's nothing new about silly similes and so forth.  But first, some examples that popped up on Facebook and are supposedly down to modern students: 'She was like a magnet - attractive from the back, repulsive from the front.' (Basic physics.) 'Her eyes twinkled, like the moustache of a man with a cold.' (Smooth.) 'The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.' (Have to admit, this one's hard to beat as deadpan humour.)  'She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet.' (Ouch.)  'It was as easy as taking a candy from a diabetic man who no longer wishes to eat candy.'  Bu

Ghosts & Scholars

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I found a couple of early issues of Ghosts & Scholars  at a book fair last weekend. They bear a strong resemblance to the latest G&S newsletter - back to the future, or possibly forward to the past? The point is that, if you don't read G&S you're missing out on some great fiction, very entertaining essays, and informative reviews. Ro Pardoe is a legendary editor in our small supernatural world, and continues to set a standard that others - like me - aspire to reach. The latest issue, for instance, contains stories by D.P. Watt, Peter Bell, and Jacqueline Simpson. They area all in the M.R. James tradition, but - as always with G&S - are excellent stand-alone stories in their own right. There's also a great cover showing the mysterious globe in the maze from 'Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance'. So, just a quick mention for another publication that offers ghost story enthusiasts exactly what they're looking for.

The Metanatural Adventures of Dr. Black

Gentle reader, a quick test of reading preferences. Vladimir Nabokov James Joyce T.S. Eliot Ezra Pound Flann O'Brien Alasdair Gray If you don't really like any or all of the above, this is not the review for you. Move along now, nothing to see, etcetera. If, on the other hand, you like all that playful modernist stuff, you may enjoy this new collection from Brendan Connell, an author new to me. He sent me a pdf of TMAoDB , and I read and enjoyed it. I didn't understand all of it, but for me that's part of the pleasure. In his introduction, Jeff VanderMeer rightly observes that Connell is playful and witty, and that he offers his reader great chunks of erudition. To some, this is a repellent trait in an author, perhaps because they feel the writer is holding forth like a prize bore at the dinner table. I feel differently - given the amount of clich├ęd tripe out there, something a bit out of the ordinary is very welcome. All very well, but what's it about?

Ghost Story Readings - Essex Police Museum

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Among the readers of classic ghost stories with a legal/criminal flavour is Roger Johnson, who is always worth hearing and indeed chatting with. According to Roger, the stories are 'by M R James, Charles Dickens and Ex-Private X (i.e. A.M. Burrage)'. Find out more here .

Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J.S. Le Fanu

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Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born just over 200 years ago, and occupies a unique position in the twilight realm of ghostly fiction. Le Fanu was a very successful Victorian novelist, an equally accomplished short story writer, and produced poetry and drama for good measure. He is arguably the central figure in what we call Gothic fiction, as he wrote after the genre had matured but died well before the modern horror story begins to emerge in the Edwardian era. Le Fanu was man of contradictions - these writer chappies often are. A famous recluse in his later years, he was rather well-travelled. He was an Irish literary giant, but agreed to set his novels in England to reach a wider audience. Two of his best-loved stories, 'Carmilla' and 'Schalken the Painter', are set on the continent. Elsewhere he focuses on Irish folklore and the native culture of the Catholic peasantry he knew well, but stood apart from as a Protestant of Huguenot descent. Dublin-based Swan R

Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, and Susannah Edwards

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An odd title for a post, but those names belonged to three witches executed in Devon 322 years ago. They were the last people hanged for witchcraft in England. Now modern witches (some in pointy hats, it must be said) are demanding a posthumous pardon for the women. They were of course convicted of witchcraft because neighbours said bad things about them, they were poor... and that's about it. The Wikipedia entry on the case seems to have been sourced from Sabine Baring-Gould. The inclusion of Alice Molland is debatable, but it at least possible that she was the last person to be hanged for witchcraft. The problem is that primary source material seems to be lacking. There is always a debate about whether pardons long after an injustice mean anything. But it doesn't hurt to draw attention to a stain on our history.  Wherever people believe in witchcraft, witches will be found. Admittedly, sometimes they make it easy. Today's witches look like an ami